Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
Can someone explain to me what this story is about and the significane/theme behind it?
This is a koan. A short phrase or story designed to halt logical thought in order to promote intuitive understanding.
Koan vary, though the theme remains remarkably consistent. The dedicated acolyte eventually receives enlightenment, witch is a fundamental awareness that most Zen masters are pompous, moronic, self absorbed sadists.
This koan is essentially the notion that to see things from a new view point, you must let go of the old viewpoint. About like saying “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” or “Think outside the box.”
A Western Philosopher would say “Everything is Relative.” A Zen master would ask: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” WPs would say “Without paper a pencil is useless.” ZMs would say “It’s no longer a pencil.”